Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad For Your Health
Sugars and starches are digestible carbohydrates that supply the body with vital energy. Once broken down in the digestive system, they turn into the fuel that feeds the chemical, neurological and physical processes that occur in the body, especially in the muscles and brain.
Carbohydrates are divided into two groups: Simple carbohydrates (they are called simple because these compounds consist of just one or two molecules of simple sugar) are found in table sugar, honey, deserts, candy, soft drinks, fruits and fruit drinks and processed foods. Complex carbohydrates are made of very long sugar molecules and are present in whole grains and whole grain foods such as breads and cereals, in legumes, green vegetables and potatoes.
White table sugar, also known as sucrose, is extracted and refined from either sugar cane or sugar beets. This type of sugar adds empty calories to our body, ones that are devoid of nutritional value.
200 years ago, the average intake of sugar was only about 15 pounds per person per year compared with over 160 pounds today. Sugar consumption is growing mostly in modern, western society. Many names have been given to sugar, such as “the silent killer” or “white poison”, in recent years. Research (e.g., this paper) points to an undeniable link between increased sugar consumption and conditions such as diabetes, obesity, digestive problems, acne, hypoglycemia, heart disease, mental illnesses, behavioral problems, cancer and others.
It is necessary to understand that the need for sugar is physiological and not physical. This desire is not inherited but acquired. Human beings can live well and survive without sucrose throughout their entire lives. The more sugar is consumed, the more it is desired. The desire for sugar can, however, very easily turn into an addiction.
Ancient man only ate sugar that was found in fruit and honey. Modern man has cultivated crops such as sugar beet and sugar cane and learned to extract the sugar from these plants. Because the extracted sugar is devoid of its natural components and its molecule is very simple, it is absorbed in the digestive system incredibly quickly. This creates a feeling of fullness which blurs the need for other foods containing crucial nutrients and a lack is formed.
When sugar enters the blood stream, blood sugar (glucose) levels rise rapidly and with it come feelings of elevation and energy. Sugar increases the level of endorphins and serotonins in the body which cause us to feel good but a big drop in mood and energy will follow inevitably. This in turn brings feelings of low mood and low energy, tiredness, inability to concentrate and function well and depression. This situation creates the need to consume more sugar and so we are caught in a vicious addictive cycle.
Health Complications Linked to High Sugar Consumption
The rise in blood sugar level causes increased release of insulin from the pancreas. The role of insulin is to clear sugar out of the bloodstream. Studies have found that people suffering from cancer had an increased level of insulin in their bodies. In fact, insulin can inject sugar and other nutrients into cancer cells and thus promote their growth. Insulin in the blood can also cause a rise in blood pressure, a rise in blood fat levels and narrowing of blood vessels which ultimately lead to arteriosclerosis.
Another good reason to avoid consuming too much sugar is the distortion it may cause in the balance of intestinal microflora. Bad bacteria feed on sugar and the more we eat it the more we will cause them to grow, whereas the friendly bacteria decrease. In any infectious illness, sugar helps harmful microbes to grow. A high number of them distorts the chemical balance of the body and creates an acidic body, which in turn creates ground for many other infectious diseases.
Sugar metabolism requires vitamins and minerals, which were originally supplied naturally by fruits that contained sugar. In order to digest sugar, the human body takes these nutrients from other food sources and, in their absence, it will take them from its own organs and so will weaken them.
To avoid the aforementioned health complications, we should get the sugars we need from fruits and especially from complex carbohydrates, which break down relatively slowly and release the sugar into the bloodstream gradually and moderately, thus supplying the body with energy over an extended period of time. After eating complex carbohydrates we feel full for longer and our blood sugar level remains in balance.